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65th Sapporo Snow Festival

You’re deciding when the best time to go to Japan is...
Spring – there’s cherry blossoms.
Summer – there’s lavender.
Autumn – the leaves change colour and it’s all pretty and nice.
Winter – there’s snow, and cold…and the annual Sapporo Snow Festival!
Fast facts about this wintery festival.
1. It’s usually held in the first week of February. It is one week long only. This year it was held from the 5th- 11th Feb.
2. An estimated 2 million visitors, both foreign and local attend this festival annually.
3. Since four years ago, Hatsune Miku (Vocaloid) began featuring in the festival, as a special snow Miku segment. This year is Miku’s fifth anniversary at the festival, and it features a magical girl snow Miku.
4. There is an international snow sculpture contest during the festival, in which various countries from around the world take part in. (I’ll talk about where Singapore stands in this…yes we participated.)
5. The main festival area is Odori park, which is about 1.5 km long.
The snow festival is definitely a highlight during winter in Hokkaido, Japan. New Chitose airport is all decked out in snow Miku, hotels are often booked full and the event space flooded with people.

Miku at New Chitose airport

I was lucky enough to be there this year, so here’s the account first hand (a.k.a a short how-to guide if you are thinking about going next year), and my amateurishly taken photos.
1. Finding Odori park
Finding the park is easy, you may choose to walk through the underground walkways due to the weather, or easily take a cab from wherever. (Most cab drivers would recommend you go to the festival the moment you step into the cab…true story.)
I took the underground walkways, there are mini concerts and events that run along the fringes of these walkways and the closer you get to Odori park the more posters and booths you’ll see. Going there the ‘local way’ through the subways is the more immersive experience.
2. When you’re there!
It depends which street you exit at, but you’ll know you’re there when you see the huge giant snow sculptures.
A sculpture for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
The whole park is very orderly, it is divided into 12 sections, with one-way walking traffic flow so a suggestion would be to start at section 1, and go one-way down the park. Right at the end of the park is a citizen's square, where the locals were able to build their own snow sculptures.
Ice sculpture featuring Taiwan

Audi A3

Yep...Totoro...very popular there.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building - Malaysia

Mausoleum of Itmad-Ud-Daulah - India

Arc de Triomphe - Citizen's square

No prizes for guessing who they are - Citizen's square

Hello Kitty - Citizen's square

Angry Birds - Citizen's square

3. What about food?
There is a food village about halfway through the park, they sell mostly grilled items, freshly done on the spot, and piping hot, great for the cold weather. If you need a drink, just buy yourself one at the famous vending machines dotted throughout the street.
4. And the international snow sculpting contest you were talking about?
Ah yes. Japan invites people from the various countries that they have close relations with to participate, from Hong Kong to Thailand to Singapore and Hawaii.
If you’re curious about this year’s result. Korea came in first, followed by Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

Korea - Mobius Glove

Hong Kong - The jumping Qilin
Singapore - Let remove it
5. What about Miku?
Well, she had an area devoted to her. Complete with her own snow sculpture, stage, posters, store, stamps and plenty of fans.
Magical girl snow Miku, they even had a mini song/light show for her.
There was almost nothing left at the store toward the end of the festival, but I did snag myself a  2014 snow Miku plush and a key chain. So if you want Miku merchandise, go early.

2014 magical girl snow Miku plush ^^
So yes, it’s dreadfully cold and extremely slippery in winter, but no two snow festivals are the same and the snow sculptures are demolished after the festival period.
Therefore, man up and brave the cold! Instead of catching sakura season, it’s definitely worth timing your next Japan visit to catch the Sapporo snow festival.

Written by Neko

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